The team behind mobile game engine Spaceport.io has announced that they are heading over to Facebook, while the product will live on independently with co-founder Peter Relan and the YouWeb Incubator team taking responsibility for it.
Spaceport.io co-founder Ben Savage said his team saw “huge potential” in a closer working relationship with Facebook and expects to have a “larger impact” on the mobile space.
“Facebook will not be acquiring the [Spaceport platform] technology itself, so developers can continue to build and create apps, games, and content unimpeded and with confidence that Spaceport will be around and fully supported for some time to come,” he wrote.
Spaceport.io is backed by several investors, including BBC Worldwide and YouWeb.
Spaceport offers a free 2D gaming SDK for iOS and Android with additional Cloud LiveTest and Cloud LiveOps services that provide online testing and updating for games.
Image credit: Digital Vision
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Digital activist and early employee at Reddit, Aaron Swartz, committed suicide in New York on January 11. He was 26.
Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing wrote a beautiful eulogy to the young man who, at the age of 14, surprised his computing peers by organizing the RSS 1.0 working group. Wrote Doctorow:
Schwartz was in the news in 2011 for taking 4 million documents from JSTOR, an online aggregator of scientific journals. The U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts charged him with computer fraud to which he plead not guilty. He also “completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption,” according to the MIT Tech.
It is always tragic when one of our own dies and it is made even more tragic when they choose suicide rather than help. The life of the mind is a glorious place but, as Doctorow writes, now “if he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends.” We are all in this together and help can cope in many forms (Reddit, The Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and those close to you).
But rather than dwell on what went wrong, it is right to celebrate this young man’s accomplishments and mourn his passing. He was a friend to many of us and will be missed.
Memories and donations can be sent at RememberAAronSw.com. His parents and partner posted a remembrance here.
Read more here: Digital Activist Aaron Swartz Dead At 26
Hackulous, the company behind the popular (and controversial) app Installous which let people easily download pirated apps on jailbroken iOS devices, has shut down.
In what iDownloadBlog’s Sebastien Page has called “a small victory against app piracy,” Installous is now no longer available for use.
Hackulous announced the closure today in a brief post on its website that reads:
“We are very sad to announce that Hackulous is shutting down. After many years, our community has become stagnant and our forums are a bit of a ghost town. It has become difficult to keep them online and well-moderated, despite the devotion of our staff. We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve had over the years and hope that new, greater communities blossom out of our absence.
With lots of love,
Fans of the Installous are mourning the loss on its Facebook page, and, not surprisingly, offering up links to other piracy apps that are still up and running.
This comes just one day after our East Coast editor John Biggs wrote a TechCrunch article calling Installous “the scam iOS maker of the day” and calling for Apple to shut down the Installous app, which he called “a travesty, and an insult to those who strive to build great apps.” It’s unclear whether Apple heeded his call, or if Hackulous pulled the app on its own as part of its planned shutdown. Either way, now it’s gone.
Update: The Installous app that Biggs wrote about is indeed gone from the iOS App Store, but it is a separate entity from the Installous that was operated by Hackulous, which was available on Cydia via the Hackulous repository. Guess today is a bad day for both of the Installouses in the world. Apologies for the error.
This is certainly not the end of mobile app piracy, but it is one small step forward for developers who want to earn an honest living for building fun mobile applications, and for those of us users who are happy to pay the the dollar or two it takes to download an app the honest way.
View original post here: Hackulous Shuts Down, Taking Its iOS Piracy App Installous With It
Beloved phone camera app Instagram sure had a tumultuous week before Christmas, when a change in the wording of its terms of service caused the Internet to erupt in a chasm of knee jerk reactions: “Instagram is going to sell my photos!” the jerkiest knees exclaimed.
The clamor was so deafening that Instagram founder Kevin Systrom ended up retracting the TOS changes, pulling them back to the simpler language that existed before, to debatable user benefit. This backtracking however did not stop people from filing a class action lawsuit against Instagram for breach of contract, outcome TBD.
The wording that specifically raised users’ ire was a couple of sentences that implied that Instagram can get paid for the usage of uploaded images in ads. Specifically:
“You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.”
This language has been replaced in the newer version with the older:
“You hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.”
“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement,” Systrom wrote in his apology letter, explaining that what the company actually has planned for its eventual monetization is something along the lines of Facebook Sponsored Stories and Twitter’s Promoted Accounts. Systrom also wrote that when the company comes up with that model it will then bring the specific plan to users.
“We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.”
Perhaps the dumbest thing about last week’s backlash is, as The Verge’s Nilay Patel expertly points out, Instagram has always had the ability to advertise against your photos on Instagram itself. So why include this language in the first place?
As Systrom also wrote, Instagram was created to become a self-sustaining business, wanting to leave its options open as it developed its business model in situ. New acquirer Facebook is also playing business model improv, and the once innocuous photo-sharing startup fell victim to one of its parents’ clumsier moves. “Move fast and break things” sometimes breaks things.
From Patel’s (who actually is a former copyright lawyer) read, Instagram’s limited license means that it can’t sell, i.e. give indefinite ownership of, your photos to advertisers, it can only display them in conjunction with promotional content on Instagram. The new Instagram TOS language also clearly precludes Instagram creating derivative works of your photos, which I am assuming a television commercial counts as.
But, as far as I can tell from reading the admittedly confusing TOS, the only way we’re sure that Instagram won’t eventually use user photos in ads without user permission is because of laws regarding publicity and because Systrom has said so. Peter Kafka agrees with me.
I also don’t see where that right wouldn’t extend to using those photos in a billboard or a TV commercial, though the TOS right now implies that the photos could be used in ads only on the Instagram platform. But I’m a user, not a lawyer.
During the TOS mess last week, the Taco Bell Doritos Locos commercial above was used by many as an example of what a hypothetical commercial with UCG Instagram photos would look like. This commercial is fascinating: While some of those pictures were brought in through social channels, with user permission through a Taco Bell promotion, the majority of those pics were actually manufactured by ad creative to look like Instagram photos. Side note: Does it get any more hipster than this?
“It’s actually pretty sweet,” Instagram user Jeremy Seltzer remarked after I posted the above video on Facebook. “It would be quite cool to have my Instagram shot in a commercial…” It’s definitely possible some users would welcome the opportunity to showcase their work — the trick is finding out which ones.
Already startups like Pixlee are starting to crop up as tools to help brands manage the massive amounts of UGC image content, like the 49ers are doing with their gallery of fan photos here. Pixlee helps brands curate their fanpics by asking users to manually upload relevant photos. It also asks for specific permission to use individual photos in promotion pre-upload.
So where does the line get drawn between this and your or Tiffani Amber Thiessen’s Starbucks Instagrams eventually making it to national television? I, and a lot of other people, don’t know for sure, but it’s probably through an opt-in user submission process, like in Taco Bell or Pixlee’s case.
Instagram, which gave Taco Bell permission to use its trademark and branding, did not receive any money for its involvement in the Doritos Tacos Locos spot and neither did anyone who actually submitted photos. They did it out of their own desire for 15 minutes of Taco fame.
Tracked TOS changes via Quora and William Carlton
Whatsapp, the multiplatform mobile messaging app that has been one of the runaway success stories for ad-free, paid services, has been in talks to be acquired by Facebook, according to sources close to the matter.
We’re still digging around on potential price and other details about how advanced the deal is. But as mobile becomes the most bloody battleground in the Internet’s game of thrones, you can see how such a deal could make sense.
For starters, it would be another way for Facebook to continue extending its touchpoints with mobile consumer. Mark Zuckerberg asserted, on the occasion of reaching 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook, that mobile would be crucial to Facebook reaching the “next billion.”
“The big thing is obviously going to be mobile,” Zuckerberg told BusinessWeek. “There are 5 billion people in the world who have phones.”
Whatsapp also has a footprint that fits with Facebook’s focus on international/emerging markets: The messaging app has users in over a hundred countries covering 750 mobile networks, on the iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia S40, Symbian and Windows Phone platforms.
The startup also has demonstrable scale. We’ve heard the company has something like tens of millions of daily active users globally and these users utilize Whatsapp to send messages to family and friends. Every minute a user spends on Whatsapp is likely at the expense of a minute spent on Facebook.
At the end of October 2011, the last time Whatsapp updated its usage numbers, it announced that it was serving 1 billion messages per day — “Just how much is 1 billion messages? That is 41,666,667 messages an hour, 694,444 messages a minute, and 11,574 messages a second,” the company wrote then. The app, which is built on Erlang, has the potential and ambition to grow more and wants to provide “a great mobile messaging system for a global market, regardless of your handset.”
It is currently looking for translators in Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Farsi, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Urdu, “and many more languages.”
Unlike Facebook, Whatsapp is a paid app. And obviously, having a paid, ad-free service is an expansion of Facebook’s business model beyond advertising. We’ve already seen Facebook launch another service that diversifies it — Gifts — and the positive impact that had with investors.
And, as a paid app, Whatsapp is doing well: It’s currently the No. 2 paid app in Apple’s App Store (U.S. version), where it sells for $0.99. (Although there are often sales on the app where it gets discounted or given away.) On Google’s Play Android store, it is free for the first year, and then $0.99 per year thereafter. Google indicates that the Android app has had between 100 million and 500 million installs to date.
Ironically, Whatsapp’s explicit disavowal of advertising as a revenue source could even work in its favor during acquisition talks. Facebook has faced significant backlash over how much its advertising has become more prominent and (some argue) intrusive as it attempts a meaningful revenue steam. Having an ad-free, paid feature as part of its portfolio could be a way for Facebook to answer or mitigate some of Wall Street’s criticism. Whatsapp is a global business with many active users, a clear business model, and strong momentum. So there.
And still, today, the business models of the two companies couldn’t be more different.
“Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought,” Whatsapp co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a blog post earlier this year. “At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen. Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.” [Koum's emphasis.]
And that is just one reason why a Whatsapp/Facebook acquisition would be a surprise. At other times, Koum has been public about his distaste for startups that sell out quickly. “Totally agree with Vinod Khosla,” he wrote in July. “People starting companies for a quick sale are a disgrace to the valley.” (He’s also, btw, noted that getting on TC shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Too true.)
It’s unclear whether statements like this translate into deal-breakers with Facebook, or whether any parties would get bought out, were a deal to happen.
But there is some other great detail to this story that gives it an extra layer of interest: The two co-founders, Koum and Brian Acton, first worked together at Yahoo. It’s where they developed their dislike of advertising-based business models.
Whatsapp’s business development head, Neeraj Arora, came to Whatsapp from Google, where he was a senior member of the corporate development team. According to his LinkedIn profile, he “led acquisitions and strategic investments across products and geographies. Recent transactions at Google include the acquisitions of Zagat, Dailydeal.de, Slide, Picnik, Cleversense, PittPatt and Talkbin.”
And Acton himself apparently has pitched to Facebook before — perhaps for a job, perhaps with another product, perhaps with this idea.
“Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure,” he wrote in August 2009, the same year they founded Whatsapp, which is backed by Sequoia.
Acton’s most recent tweet was on January 13, 2012 (no, he’s not an active tweeter), a day notable for Whatsapp getting pulled from the App Store (restored four days later). The tweet was “Whatsapp.”
Note: We have reached out to both Facebook and the Whatsapp founders by email but we have not heard back. We will update this post with more information asap when we do.
Continue reading here: What’s Up With Whatsapp? Facebook Might Want To Buy It, That’s What